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Northern Ireland to provide 2-10Mbps Universal Service by mid-2011
Friday 04 December 2009 07:56:36 by Sebastien Lahtinen

Residents and businesses in Northern Ireland are being promised faster broadband services following an announcement by the Northern Ireland Assembly Government to provide a minimum 2Mbps broadband service in rural areas and 10Mbps in urban areas within 18 months. This will be of significant benefit, particularly to those living in rural areas who cannot yet get any broadband at all. This compares with the UK government's Universal Service Commitment of a 2Mbps service across the country by 2012.

Of particular note is the commitment to 10Mbps in urban areas, something which mainland UK has lacked and there are still notspots and slow-spots in what would be considered urban areas.

The universal service will be delivered by BT after winning a competitive tender and promising to invest £30m with the remaining £18m being contributed by various public funds including an EU grant. It is expected that fibre optic cabling will be used to deliver much of this coverage with 166 exchanges upgraded and 1,176 new 'access points' which we believe refers to a fibre-to-the-cabinet solution, a significant step in the right direction.

"Broadband is an enabler - use of these new services will enable our businesses to increase their productivity, improving the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. [..] At a time of economic slowdown, this multi-million pound injection in our infrastructure has the potential to indirectly create up to 1,000 additional jobs per annum."

Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Northern Ireland has been lagging at the bottom of UK regions in terms of average broadband speeds at around 2.7Mbps against a UK average of 3.6Mbps. The slowest English average speed in the survey published earlier this year was 3.2 Mbps. This news will be particularly welcome to those in rural areas who have the most to benefit.

If you can't get broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps, or worse, can't get broadband at all, please register your details on our Broadband Notspot site.

Comments

Posted by mike41 over 7 years ago
I'm no techie but I think Northern Ireland was the first region to have extensive fibre-optic cabling installed. This may explain the ambitious target which is good news for all who live here
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
Fibre is pretty widespread in all the UK now, just it is linking exchanges to exchanges, and big business to big business.

Low cost fibre from homes to exchanges is what is only just starting in the UK.
Posted by wirelesspacman over 7 years ago
Interesting to read that BT has again "won a competitive tender" for public funds. They seem to have got this process well and truly sussed! No doubt their experience of fleecing (sorry, winning competitive tenders) the providers of such funds from the adsl rollout days has helped enormously.

Given that satellite could do it (at least the 2Mbps part) today, it does make one wonder what this "competitive tender" process actually entailed.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@wirelessspacman:What it entails is an altogether better connection than satellite. Satellite is a cop-out for the provider or last-ditch solution for a desperate customer. It should not be part of any national infrastructure plan in Western Europe.
Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
I aassume under normal circumstances BT would have got FTTC out to the 38 llu exchanges that covers 51% of population, and it is a good bet that BT £48m includes these costs.

That leaves a further 128 exchanges covering 34% population 214k households or 1000 PCPs at 150 households per PCP, a subsidey £17k per PCP!

Can anybody do any better?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
wirelesspacman - Yes, Satellite "could do it". It's also entirely true that unless you're a masochist, you want to avoid Satellite-based soloutions.
Posted by wirelesspacman over 7 years ago
I am well aware of the limitations of satellite and agree with both of you on that score. However, the fact that it "could do it" must surely mean that the "competitive tender" had provisions in it to effectively exclude satellite as a mechanism.

Does make me wonder how competitive "competitive" was in practice.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Honestly I'd exclude satellite from a 99.5% tender, the last 0.5% maybe, but...
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
"... BT again ... it does make one wonder what this "competitive tender" process actually entailed. "

Indeed. The previous contractor was BT, with satellite as connection of last resort.

The tender for the newly awarded stuff went out in the Official Journal of the EU in October 2008, so someone who understands that maze of twisty little websites and bureaucrats should presumably be able to find the tender? I couldn't.
Posted by swervinc over 7 years ago
Finally some good news! =) I live in an area with a few hundred homes,a lot of people with o.5mb broadband and we're only a few km from the city. Im sure BT won't consider using satalite or BET for so amny homes so we may have a chance of FTTC =) (I won't get my hopes up yet though)
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
This: http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/state_aids/comp-2008/n508-08.pdf
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
Thanks Somerset but that's not the tender document, that's a note from the EU to the UK saying "you're OK to subsidise this one as it's not anti-competitive". Or something like that. You'd have thought it would then help finding the actual tender but it didn't help me. Maybe it'll be in the Official Journal or a supplement, somewhere...
Posted by wirelesspacman over 7 years ago
Starting to make a bit more sense now...

"Competitive tender" actually means "open tender"

http://www.publictenders.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=65578

Can also be found on TED (ted.europa.eu) but you have to register.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"This compares with the UK government's Universal Service Commitment of a 2Mbps service across the country by 2012."

When did that happen?, i thought more recently it had come to light terms like "for most" and UPTO were used.
Posted by dotjoe1 over 7 years ago
I just seen Santa flying over my roof followed by two flying pigs ...............
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ LOL i hope you left a mince pie and some slop :D
Posted by deeor over 7 years ago
If this gets me FTTC that should help. But in rural areas it is still possible to be a long way from the cabinet. I reckon I am at least a mile. Will I see my less than 1gig speed improve? I suspect not but would like to hear from someone who understands this stuff :-)
Posted by wirelesspacman over 7 years ago
"less than 1gig" ???
Posted by themanstan over 7 years ago
Deeor, use google maps to calculate your approx distance to the CABINETS nearest you (you may not be connected to the nearest cabinet) . VDSL2 gives >10Meg to 2km (1.25 miles).
Posted by lep17 over 7 years ago
85% are some rural areas going to be left out then ? Also were will it be rolling out first it would be nice if they would do the rural areas first !
Posted by deeor over 7 years ago
Sorry wirelesspacman. Meant less than 1Meg :-). Thanks for the info themanstan. I'm about 1.2Km from the cabinet so should be OK. Think I'll start talking to my neighbours as some of them are rural businesses.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
"Sorry wirelesspacman. Meant less than 1Meg :-", lol. It's a nice thought that one day people might be complaining on TBB about not getting 1Gb/s :)
Posted by themanstan over 7 years ago
Deeor looks like you should get ~16meg.

Posted by lep17 over 7 years ago
Any answers to my earlier post folks ???
Posted by wirelesspacman over 7 years ago
It is not in BT's commercial interest to do the rural areas first - unless/until it is bribed to do so by RDA money etc.
Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
lep17 - This is my take on the rural area. NI is 35% rural anyway so this what I reckon.

There are 191 NI exchanges
BT would do 38 LLU exchanges anyway passing 330k homes
The £18m helps with the next 128 exchnages and 1176 PCPs -covering any additional 214k homes - that leaves 25 exchanges and 94000 homes being covered by ADSL and satellite.

Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
lep17 - the combined cost of premises past in NI is approx £90 compared to Yorkshire £190, yet NI has much more of a rural component.

If the NI number is accurate then it would be goods for the rural fund.

What cost the last 25 exchanges circa 80 pcp - 90k premises - assuming usable duct - another £3.5m is needed.
Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
Oops not £3.5m - the crucial bit is number of PCPs per exchange, once you go below 100 customers per PCP, the costs baloon. You could see another £10m to cover the tail.
Posted by lep17 over 7 years ago
BT were in the process a few years back of installing FTTC in our town they done all the ground works ducts and i even think the fibre was blown to the two new underground boxes to were 5 ducts are coming up out of them . I assume the cabinet would cover these ducts . I think the rest of the funding didnt come through and the project was halted . Just thinking now with this new funding will the FTTC be completed .
Posted by deeor over 7 years ago
"Deeor looks like you should get ~16meg."
Wheeee :-)
Posted by elder666 over 7 years ago
6Km from exchange getting 0.5 MB on ADSL Max. Please hurry up. 35K+ users on the exchange also!! Mobile Broadband out the window also. Luckly I work in IT and don't need broadband access for any of my work!!. Come on BT get things together and get the fibre ring in place and decent broadband for everyone.
Posted by deeor over 7 years ago
lep17 said "and i even think the fibre was blown to the two new underground boxes" Forgive my ignorance but is fibre actually "blown" in or is this just a figure of speech? I have assumed it is in a multistrand cable which is rolled off a drum just like copper.
Posted by elder666 over 7 years ago
yip watch out for open reach or KN networks who are doing the upgrades. they have been all over recently.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
deeor - No, blowing is by far the most common way of laying fibre, and it's literal. Heck, some companies do blown cable installs these days.
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